By Kammy Gaffney
"So who is she?" Natalie asked, as she carefully examined one of Rhaegal's out-stretched wings. He fascinated her.
"Who?" He opened his eyes, and looked at her, puzzled.
"You called a woman's name once... um... Elizabeth, or somethin', I didn't quite catch it."
His sharp angular face softened, and grew dark with grief. "It doesn't matter," he said it rather harshly, in a tone that he hoped would lay the matter to rest.
"Did she leave you?" Natalie murmured, sympathetic, yet probing. She didn't seem to know how to take a hint.
"In a matter of speaking. She is dead."
"Oh! I'm sorry."
"It is no fault of yours," he said shortly. He carefully pulled his wing away from her, got up and began to dress. Natalie watched him in silence for a moment.
"Was she a human? Like me?"
"No. She was my mate." He didn't look at her. His profile was finely drawn, yet strong. His expression was once again inscrutable as ever.
"Oh." Natalie his discomfort was obvious, she pitied him, but at the same time, curiosity was driving her mad. "Is that why you didn't want to?"
"Yes. Now I feel as though I've betrayed her, somehow."
"I would think that she would want you to be happy."
"Perhaps... but unfortunately, it isn't possible to be happy, when a dragon loses his mate."
"You're a dragon? I thought--but you said you were a fairy."
"My great grandmother was a dragon."
"Oh." That just spurred a whole new series of questions. Natalie propped her head up on one hand. "So you're part dragon, part faerie?"
"There are many different kind of fae. I am Drakthae... dragon-kin. I am part dragon, and..." He hesitated before he continued. "Part Kithain."
"Oh." Natalie thought about that for a minute, as Rhaegal buttoned his shirt. "What's a Kithain?"
"Give me a hand with the back of my shirt, and perhaps I might tell you." Natalie started working on the buttons that fastened his shirt around his wings.
"This has got to be a nuisance."
"Another good reason for me to keep my clothes on," Rhaegal said. It took Natalie a minute to realize he had made a joke. She smiled.
"So who helps you with your shirts when you don't have a whore handy?"
"Oh, I can reach them myself. But it's easier for someone else. My son--" He cut himself short. Too late.
"You have a son?"
Rhaegal sighed. "I have two. But please, for the love of all that is good--promise me if someone should ever come and ask about me, do not tell them I was here, or if you must, tell them that you neither saw nor heard anything about my sons."
"We are hunted."
Natalie felt a small chill run down her spine. "Why?"
"Some hunt us because we are vampires, and it is only sport. We are as the undead to them, they do not differentiate between blood-drinkers. Then there are the others... the ones who say we are evil, that my child is evil, that I am evil because I would not kill him. They would have him put to the iron blade. They would destroy him, body and soul."
Natalie was horrified. "Who wants you to kill your son? Why?"
"All fae... Sidhe and Unseelie alike... even our own kin, the hypocrites... ecause my child..." He choked up then, and he was glad that his back was to Natalie, so that she could not see the emotion that clouded his face. "My youngest son... is like the true Kithain, before the dragon-born came to be. They fear him, because of his power--or rather, the lack thereof. The few remaining members of my kin feared that the wrath of the Sidhe will descend upon us all, so they wish that I would sacrifice this one. They have forgotten our heritage. They are cowards, and I will not do it. My oldest son is obedient to me, and I have commanded him not to do it. Therefore we are all to die."
"But there aren't any fae here, are there?" She thought about it for a moment. "Are there?" she repeated.
"No... not right now. But it isn't good for us to stay in any one place for too long. Besides, even if there are no other fae, I do not know of many humans that would tolerate the presence of a vampire in their midst."
Natalie thought about the people in her town, and nodded. She wasn't all that sure about faerie politics, but this, she understood. She had been at the receiving end of her community's scorn for a long time.
"Gee... that's too bad. I was hoping you'd stick around for a while."
"I might... we found a place to nest not too far away. It may do for a fortnight." He turned and looked at Natalie. "May I ask something of you?"
"Would you be our eyes and ears? I could simply make you my slave, but I would sooner have you do this of your own free will. This is a small town; I think too many people would notice a change in you if I did such a thing." Natalie blinked.
"All I ask of you is keep an eye out for any strangers passing through. Watch and see if they ask any questions. And keep an eye on the townsfolk too, just to be on the safe side. I can pay... though not much, I am afraid." Rhaegal's hand went to his pocket, and he brought out a single gold coin. He flipped it lightly through the air, and Natalie caught it, and turned it round in her hands.
"Is this thing real?"
"Yes. I believe you can get a better price for it if you take it to a collector, than at a pawnshop. There will be more, if you can do this task for me."
"Oh, sure, I can do that! Anything to keep you around for a bit." She smiled, and stroked his hair. He had unbound it, and it was incredibly long, fine and smooth and straight, black as jet except for a few broad strokes of silver that ran through the length of it. "I can't believe it...a real live faerie, and a vampire to boot. Wow..." Then she ran a finger down the wide strong base of one wing, and her smile grew a little as she felt him shiver ever so slightly in response. "So... how does one end up with a dragon for a great grandmother?"
"One must have an incredibly perverse great-grandfather," Rhaegal replied.
Natalie burst out laughing. She was beginning to catch on to his very dry humor, and finding that she rather liked it. "That makes sense."
"Remind me to tell you of it some time. Our family's history is quite fascinating."
"Well I've got time... why don't you tell me now?" Rhaegal studied her for a long moment, his face stern and expressionless, and then he moved to one of the chairs, and sat down, letting his wings rest over the back. Once settled, he began his story.
"But first I must tell you the story of the Drakthae."
He had a voice born for story telling, and Natalie, curled up in the bed like a child, was almost immediately caught up in it.
"This was how they came about. Once in a time long ago, long ago even for those of who live long in this world, and long before any human memory, the Kithain raged. Dark they were, corrupt to the very bottom of their souls, abandoning all that was good in a desperate search for power, seeking that which they had lost, and killing others to take it, in unspeakable ways. They were the first blood-drinkers among the fae, and they were worse, much worse, for they stole their glamour also, and there is no greater crime. True, they did it for the sake of their own lives, but who could live with such a curse? It would have been better for them to take their own lives. The Kithain have their own history, but this story is not about them, but rather, what one of them spawned.
"The Kithain lords seized whatever struck their fancy, their natures as chaotic and as volatile as that of a burning fire, or a poisonous snake--eventually they were feared as nothing else in the twin worlds. One day a mad young lord fell madly in lust with a dragon that was being displayed in a traveling menagerie, and bargained with her captors until she became his. No one realized the extent of his obsession with her, until she began to bear him children. She bore him three sons, before she escaped him, probably by accident--or perhaps, some say, she was freed by a jealous consort. No one is certain what occurred, and that young lord himself is no more, of course, though I am certain that no one in the twin worlds would have nerve to ask him now, if they did not back then.
"At any rate, the three sons were Kithain through and through as far as their temperament was concerned, but not so in appearance. Their hands bore talons, their bodies bore some scales, great wings rose from their backs, they had tails, their tongues were long and forked, their eyes were strange, they sported horns. They were the first of the Drakthos, the Three Dragon Lords. Yes, Kithain-born they were, and every bit as mad as their father. But there was a crucial difference; they were born with glamour of their own... they need not steal it, and they could be deemed no worse than some of the other fae of dark aspect that walked the land, and there were many, in those days. Besides, who could stop them? They had the invincibility of the dragon, they carried their swords with a dragon's strength, they killed with its ferocity--though they drank blood still, like the Kithain. And between them, they killed many. They not only took part in and survived the two hundred year Kithain War, they bore children. They thrived. And the one called Sarr of the Kithain, or Sar'thain, had many, many children by virtue that he was every bit a slave to his lusts as his father. So were his two younger brothers, as well. So three clans of Drakthos were founded, and grew strong, even rising from the ashes of the Kithain war. Unfortunately, they were still recognized as the children of monsters by the more zealous of the anti-Kithain faction, so as a result many of our kind died in the hundreds of years of Inquisition following the war, quite unfairly. The Sidhe, of course, deny it, but my own father was one of its victims, and there were others who bore the scars of the torture pits.
"Many of our kind fled to this human world. I do not know how they survived. I do not love this harsh, graceless, pitiful life I am leading now. Here I am not a Drakthos. Here, I am merely a vampire, a common bloodsucker, the refuse of the preternatural world. I did not come here until my second son was born, glamourless. This was after the Sidhe that ruled over us all sent hunters to kill my mate to prevent his birth, and then failing, demanded that he die by my hands, to show my loyalty to the crown. They claimed that they had seen the future. They claimed that they had seen my son, as a man-grown, stealing glamour in a vision. I do not believe in visions. Like my ancestors before me, I bow to no god, recognize no power beyond that of the sword. No law beyond that of fang and talon. I fought them, as best I could, but it was a fool's battle. I fought well, though; I would not be here speaking to you otherwise. And my sons live still.
"Here we sit, several thousand years after the Kithain War, and they still demand my son's blood. It seems as if their fear has almost become blind instinct. Fae that were born only a few years before my child, tremble when he passes. These are children who do not know that the Kithain ever existed other than the fairytales told to them as they gather around the bonfire at night, or huddle safe and sound in the mother's arms. And they are told of hideous glamour-stealing boogey men that lurk in the darkness. But I am one that stands before you now... and I tell you, my children will never hear that hateful word uttered in their presence. They are Drakthos, of the clan Sartain, dragon-kin, both of them, sons of the First of the Three Dragon Lords, and so they will be until they die. That is the tale of the Drakthos."
Rhaegal stood up slowly, and gave Natalie a polite little bow. "I must go now. I may tell you more of our history later, but I must see to my sons. Dawn comes soon."
Natalie watched him intently, as if burning him, piece by piece, into her memory. "When will I see you again?"
"I do not know. Within a few evenings, perhaps. I do not wish to wear out my welcome."
"Come back tomorrow."
"That would not be wise."
"Please? If I introduce you to the guys, tell Ćem that your girl didn't want any part of ya, so you're gonna stick around for a few, that'll get their sympathy, you make with the nice-nice, play a round of darts, buy Ćem a round of beers, they won't bother you none."
"I'm not very good at that sort of thing," Rhaegal said. "But I will consider it." He raised his hand in a farewell, and opening the door, he let himself out into the night.
design ©2001 by Cindy Rosenthal
The Drakthos © 2001 by KL Gaffney
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